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WSU can’t zone in, loses to UCLA


COUGARS

Is it as goes Klay Thompson, so goes WSU? It was Saturday, as Thompson struggled mightily against a UCLA zone defense that was keyed to stop him (see the comment from Tyler Honeycutt in the game story) and only Reggie Moore came to his rescue. We have the game story, in its unedited version on the link. Tomorrow, we’ll put out our usual day-after post, with lots of notes, thoughts and comments..


••••••••••

• Here’s the gamer …

LOS ANGELES – One comeback a weekend. That may be Washington State’s quota. At least on the road.

After rallying from 15-points down to defeat USC on Thursday night, the Cougars found themselves in the same position against UCLA on Saturday afternoon.

But this time there would be no heroics in the final minutes. Instead, after pulling to within seven, WSU faded late and lost 74-62 to the Bruins before 8,349 at Pauley Pavilion.

“It always takes a lot of energy out of your team when you’ve got to come back, especially because we had to come back from Thursday,” said WSU freshman Reggie Moore, who led everyone with 24 points. “It’s going to be hard to do it two games in a row.”

And darn near impossible considering the way Klay Thompson was shooting.

The Pac-10’s leading scorer buried an uncontested 5-foot floater at the buzzer. But all that gimme did was make him 5 for 17 from the floor. That’s from WSU’s top offensive threat, who came in shooting almost 46 percent from the floor.

He was also draining 37.2 percent of his 3-pointers, but Saturday was just 2 of 9. All against a UCLA team that’s moved this season from Ben Howland’s favored man-to-man defense to a 2-3 matchup zone.

“Klay had some wide-open looks that he usually makes,” Moore said. “It wasn’t their zone that was messing him up. He was wide open.”

Not that often, though. Not if the Bruins could help it.

“Anytime we (saw) him running anywhere, we yelled out where he was,” said 6-foot-7 UCLA freshman Tyler Honeycutt, who led the Bruins with eight rebounds and added two blocked shots. “We closed out for the shot (hard). We would rather have him drive than shoot.”

Forced to put it on the floor, the 6-6 Thompson just couldn’t get to the rim against UCLA’s packed-in defense, turning the ball over five times in the attempt.

“They know where he is,” Bone said of the Bruin defense that allowed a 48-percent shooting WSU tem to hit just 21 of 59 shots. “They’re right there on the shot, forcing him to drive.

“Once in a while he was able to drive, but he’s probably a better shooter than a driver and they’re playing the shot.”

The Bruin bigs – Honeycutt, James Keefe, Nikola Dragovic and Reeves Nelson – not only clogged the middle on defense, they attacked the rim on offense. Those four outscored their WSU counterparts 45-18.

Then again, other than an occasional drive, the Cougars never really tried to get the ball in the paint.

“We didn’t do a good job of getting the ball inside,” Bone said. “When we did get it inside, we were not very successful. It kind of goes hand-in-hand. When you’re not having success, you don’t do it quite as much.”

“We weren’t patient enough,” Moore admitted. “Sometimes I think when we’re struggling, we kind of start rushing. We’ve got to believe in our offense, believe in what our coaches are saying and settle down.”

After trailing by three at the half, the Cougars did just that, getting within 34-32 on one of Moore’s six 3-pointers.

But after UCLA stretched the lead to four, WSU (14-6 overall, 4-4 in Pac-10 play) went nearly 4 minutes without scoring, rushing through their possessions with a couple passes and a shot.

The Bruins (9-10, 4-3) were the opposite and the result was an 11-0 game-clinching run. They attacked with patience, running their offense until in many instances either Nelson (19 points on 6-of-8 shooting) or Dragovic (18 on 6-of-11) finished off the possession with a basket. UCLA shot 59 percent, 73.7 in the second half.

“I don’t think our defense was very good all in all, inside or outside today,” Bone said after the Cougars fell to 2-51 at UCLA. “They exposed us in a few areas.”

On the offensive end as well.

“They just packed it in,” said Moore, who was mistakenly introduced as Reggie Miller, then shot like the former UCLA All-American, scoring WSU’s first 12 points. “That’s what a zone’s good to do, pack it in. So we’ve got to try to hit some shots from outside. We just missed out today.”

And missed a chance to sweep at the LA schools for only the second time.

“I really thought we had some decent looks at the basket,” Bone said. “There were times we executed but we just simply did not convert.

“It’s time to go home, regroup and go play the Huskies. We’ll be fine.”

•••

• That’s it for now. We’ll be back in the morning. Until then …


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